Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In Defense of IDPA

Yesterday I had a lot to say about IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) competition, and while the intent was not to be insulting, the comments I made gave little or no credit to what is an increasingly popular form of firearms competition.

It's only fitting that I mention the parts of IDPA which I found ... interesting, and occasionally laudable.   (I'll try to resist the impulse to criticize the format and structure of the IDPA Rule Book, although it will not be easy to do.)

The first thing in the rule book is a clear statement of intent of the sport:

Founded in 1996, the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is the governing body for IDPA competition, a handgun-centric shooting sport based on simulated self-defense scenarios.
The IDPA competition format was designed to be enjoyable for all shooters of all skill levels, with a premium put on the social interaction and camaraderie of the members. Participation in IDPA matches requires the use of handguns, holsters and other equipment suitable for concealed carry self-defense.
With that in mind, and keeping the shooters' best interests in mind, IDPA's founders established equipment requirements that are based on commonly  available firearms and gear, allowing individuals the opportunity to compete with minimal investment.

By the way, the rest of this article is ... VERY LONG!
(coming up:  IPSC Abandonment):

IPSC .... International Practical Shooting Confederation ... was established to utilize shooting skills in a "practical" manner.   It has since so evolved that it has lost all connection with the concept of "practicality'. that the progenitor of IPSC, the late Colonel Jeff Cooper, renounced all ties to IPSC in 1997:

From "GunGames" magazine, the "Gunsporting Industry News
        and Quotes" section by Wally Arida:
        Jeff Cooper has resigned from the International Practical
        Shooting Confederation (IPSC), a shooting association he
        helped organize 20 years ago. In a letter dated February 4,
        1997 and addressed to IPSC President Nick Alexakos, Cooper
        said he was resigning because it was "no longer even vaguely
        practical". He did not elaborate.
        In 1956, Cooper formed a "combat" shooting association in
        Southern California. It quickly grew and, in 1976, he helped
        organize the IPSC and became its Honorary Lifetime Chairman.
        In his two-page reply, Alexakos acknowledged that the 76 year
        old former US Marine Colonel was responsible for IPSC growth
        in its early years. However, Practical Shooting eventually
        shed its "combat" image and evolved into a new shooting game,
        Alexakos said. He said Cooper himself had noted the evolution
        in some of his published articles.
        "I guess what I am trying to say is that I can take your name
        off the IPSC mailing list," Alexakos wrote Cooper,"but I cannot
        rewrite history."
(I'm pretty sure that if The Colonel had been alive and still shooting when IDPA originated, he would have quickly shifted his alliance to this newer, more "practical" version of the sport.)

The difference between IPSC and IDPA is, essentially, that IPSC is an "aggressive" shooting sport. (I just made that up, by the way).  The motto of IPSC is "Speed, Power, Accuracy".

The Latin motto Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas (DVC) meaning accuracy, power, and speed was introduced to reflect these balanced elements.

NOTHING was included in the basic premise of the sport to suggest that it was a defense-based activity.   In contrast, IDPA was specifically designed to emphasize that the purpose was to exercise techniques and practices which specifically apply to defensive scenarios.


One of the words that you see a LOT when you read its rule book is TACTICAL.


In IPSC match stages, when you get to walk through each stage before your squad begins to address the scenarios, the individual is allowed to analyze target positions and shooting positions to determine the best way to address the stage based on his or her own abilities and equipment.  ("Equipment" will be addressed later.)  If the stage procedures allow, we pre-determine where we will stand when we engage each array (group) of targets, and often where we will perform a reload .. if necessary.  One of the nuances of IPSC competition is that we know everything there is to know about the challenges and difficulties of each stage, so we can solve the shooting problem based on personal variables (equipment and skills).

For example, an athletic inexperienced shooter with iron sights and 8-round magazines may choose to use his time to RUN DOWNRANGE in order to engage distant targets from a closer shooting position; an experienced but older (less athletic) competitor with Electronic Dot sights and 25-round magazines may choose to engage the same distant targets from the original starting position.  The former depends on his agility and athletic condition; the latter depends on experience and more precise equipment.     The two competitors are not competing against each other; they are only competing against people using similar equipment.

In IDPA match stages, everyone is deemed to be using somewhat similar equipment ("high-capacity magazines", Electronic Dot Sights, "Race Holsters" etc. are not generally permitted in IDPA) and they will not always have the option to choose to engage their targets in a manner which best suits their strengths.

The IDPA competitor must (RULE 3.2) engage  targets in Tactical priority.  If I understand correctly (I'll use IIUC to insert this disclaimer henceforth), these are usually the closest targets.  Sometimes the scenario may change (assuming 'pop-up targets') so that new targets will appear, representing a new Tactical priority; the competitor must change his game plan to accommodate the  evolved priorities.

This adds a bit of a 'surprise element' which is always an interesting twist in pistol competition (although every competitor is probably aware of the change in priorities .. we're not talking "SURPRISE MATCH" stage design here, I think)

This is in direct contrast with the usual fare of stage design found in IPSC/USPSA stages, and I think it sounds like fun.


In an IPSC match, we carry a lot of magazines.  (Rule Of Thumb: "You can never have too much ammunition; you can never carry too many magazines.")  Depending on the Competitive Division you declare, often you can wear the ammunition carriers all the way around your beltline .. preferably in front of your hip.  I typically carry at LEAST twice as many magazines ... which may work out to three times as much ammunition ... as I expect to use on a stage.

Sometimes, you may find it expeditious to dump a partially loaded magazine on the ground when you find a 'good place' to reload .. such as when you're moving from one shooting position to the next.  If you get a jam, the first thing you do is often to dump the magazine, then clear the jam, then load a new magazine.  SPEED is the thing, and it's not unusual (nor commented upon by your fellow shooters) when you have to ask for help from other shooters to help find the crumb-trail of magazines you've left on the shooting bay.

In a 'large' stage (30 rounds or better), I may go through four or five eight-round magazines, most of which still contain unexpired rounds.   If I'm moving, I'm reloading; "Standing Reloads" are A Bad Thing!

In an IDPA match, they are very big on 'ammunition control', which they call "Retention".

3.4 IDPA Reloads There are only two (2) IDPA approved reloads: \
3.4.1 Slide Lock/Empty Cylinder Reload (also known as an Emergency Reload) Slide Lock/ Empty Cylinder Reload – recharge the firearm when it is empty and/or out of live ammo.
3.4.2 Loaded Cylinder/Loaded Chamber Reload (also known as a Tactical Reload or Reload with Retention) Loaded Chamber/Loaded Cylinder Reload – reload the firearm when it is partially loaded while retaining any live ammunition removed

Recall that IDPA requires that both pistols and ammunition be 'concealed', so the only place they have to carry spare magazines is back of and under concealing clothing ("The Vest!")

Apparently (IIUC), you CAN dispose of magazines which are empty, although to deliberately fire extra shots from a 'short' magazine to empty it (and this avoid a "Retention" seems to be a "Failure To Do Right" violation of the intent of the game.  If you are reloading a magazine (or revolver cylinder) which is not completely empty, the competitor MUST retain the unloaded rounds.

This usually involves a convoluted (and inherently clumsy) attempt to use more fingers than exist on one human hand to keep the 'short' magazine while inserting a new magazine. Unless you're very good at it.

Here is how it looks when you're really, REALLY good at it!

Here's another example: This time the IPSC way.

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you can compete with either Master Shooter.
(I can't!)

Failure To Do Right:
1.3.2 Participation Principles Competitors will not attempt to circumvent or compromise any stage by the use of inappropriate devices, equipment, or techniques. Competitors will refrain from unsportsmanlike conduct, unfair actions, and the use of illegal equipment. The IDPA Rulebook is not intended to be an exhaustive description of all allowed and disallowed equipment and techniques. Shooter equipment and techniques should comply with the basic principles of IDPA and be valid in the context of a sport that is based on self-defense scenarios. A reasonable application of common sense and the IDPA Founding Concepts will be employed in determining whether a particular device, technique, or piece of equipment is permitted under the IDPA rules. 
IDPA Rule 1.3.2 seems to be the core of IDPA philosophy.   This is also the core of criticism from non-participants (such as me).

Essentially, "Failure To Do Right" is defined similarly to obscenity:  I know it when I see it.
I don't like to compete in a sport without understanding the rules!


The thing I do like about IDPA is that it meets the archaic definition of  "Motivation" from the 18th Century ... you know, like Kipling?:

Ow the loot!Bloomin' loot!That's the thing to make the boys git up an' shoot!
Any discipline which encourages folks to go out to the range with their guns and their ammo, their need to be with other folks who enjoy the same kind of competition ... I'm all for it.    What we need is to realize that there is an actual "community" of people who enjoy shooting sports.


Anonymous said...

IDPA is intended to require a different mindset from IPSC. So, whatever floats your boat is good.

Mark said...

Tried it a few times. Compared to USPSA, the rules are somewhat silly.